Two baby Asiatic black bears, whose species are facing extinction, were recovered by wildlife officials from the home of an Interior Ministry official on Saturday, officials said.
The bears were being held in a cage at the Daun Penh district villa of Ly Kuoy Chhor of the Interior Ministry’s Bodyguard Department, said Nick Marx, husbandry specialist for the NGO WildAid. Witnesses reported their presence, which led to the raid.
Eight members of the forestry administration’s mobile unit, composed of military police and forestry officials with support from WildAid, arrived on Ly Kuoy Chhor’s doorstep Saturday to take the three-month-old bears.
Marx said the seizure was conducted without any problem and the bears, which were thin but in otherwise good health, were taken to Phnom Tamao zoo.
Ly Kuoy Chhor will face no punitive action for possessing the black bears and instead will be rewarded for allowing the officials to take the animals, Marx said.
“We will put a plaque up thanking the owner for turning over the bears to the zoo,” he said. But he noted that “If we hadn’t banged on the door, perhaps they wouldn’t have been given to us.”
“We’re not celebrating the fact that he had the bears. But he did not obstruct us,” he added.
Marx didn’t know what the owner had planned for the bears. He said bears are often eaten or tubes are inserted into their gall bladders to extract bile which is used for medicinal purposes.
Ly Kuoy Chhor’s son, Ly Pros, said Sunday that the bears were given to his father several months ago by forestry officers, though he did not know why.
Ly Pros said when his father was given the bears, they were starving and close to death. His aim was to nurse the bears back to health and then turn them over to the zoo with media coverage.